Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Morgan Shot In The Back And The Vendetta Ride Begins

After Virgil was shot things calmed down a little in Tombstone. The Earps and their wives all were living in the Cosmopolitan Hotel with Turkey Creek Jack Johnson, Texas Jack Vermillion, Sherman McMasters and a few other fellers guarding the hall.

This was when Wyatt's "marriage" to Mattie really fell apart and his romance with Josephine Sarah Marcus really took off. Sadie, as she was known was an actress/singer and perhaps also a lady of the evening. To make the politics/personal situation even more interesting Sadie dumped Johnny Behan for Wyatt. Well, at least she dumped Behan, he had a wandering eye, did Johnny, and it seemed that the other body parts wandered, too. No one is sure of the exact order of the Behan Dumping-Wyatt romancing.

Wyatt's "wife", Mattie was strung out on Laudanum, that is a drinkable morphine concoction, much used back then. Seems that Aspirin hadn't been invented. I have "wife" in quotes because there is no record of Mattie ever marrying. The Earps had a rather lurid family life. Seems that older brother James Earp had a wife named Nellie who also ran a sportin' house. Mattie worked in that sportin' house and it was there she met Wyatt.

Virgil's wife Allie was also a saloon girl as was Morgan's Louisa. Well, it stands to reason, the Earps main business was gambler/saloon keeper. Who would they meet?

So, we have Virgil healing, slowly, Morgan and Wyatt both with Federal law enforcement commissions but mostly working as gamblers and the tension rising. In February, 1882 Morgan sent his wife, Louisa to Colton, California to his parents.

By the night of March 18, 1882 men had to hire small boys to walk the streets ahead of them, cutting holes in the tension, just so they could get around. It is ten PM and Wyatt and Morg are killing time, waiting to close out the Faro Table at the Oriental Saloon. They are in the back room of Cambell and Hatch, a billiard parlor and card room, shooting pool.

In this room are Morg and Hatch, playing pool, Wyatt and George A. B. Berry, watching. There is a back door, solid on the bottom with the top half in four glass panes, the bottom two glass panes painted over, the top two clear. This so men could see inside while children could not, remember all those saloon girls.

Suddenly rifle fire burst out, a shot goes through Morgan's spine, exiting it lodged in George Berry's thigh, causing a painful flesh wound.

The other shot went high, right through Wyatt's hat but missing him. Morgan lived an hour, Wyatt, Sherm McMaster and someone named Tipton carried Morgan to a clear spot of floor where Doctors Matthews, Goodfellow and Millar all examined him and pronounced his wound fatal. They then moved him to a couch. He died about an hour later, surrounded by his brothers James, Wyatt, Warren and even Virgil, who was just begining to move around. Also were Allie and Nellie Earp, and a few other friends like Doc Holliday. Doc was raging and went through the town kicking in doors looking for various cow-boys. Morgan's last words were "I can't stand it...I've shot my last game of pool." The I can't stand it was from them trying to stand him up.

The best evidence points to Curly Bill Brocius and Frank Stillwell as the shooters with Indian Charlie, real name Florintino Cruz as the lookout.

The next day Morgan's body was shipped to Colton to be buried. The day after that Virgil, still very weak and sick, started his journey to Colton, also.He had to be carried up the steps of the train. An interesting historical note is that Allie wore his gunbelt so that he had access to a weapon.

When the train stopped at Tuscon Wyatt and Doc spotted Frank Stillwell on a flatcar, Wyatt and maybe Doc and Warren filled him with holes, beginning the Vendetta Ride.

Wyatt, Doc, Warren, Sherm McMaster and Turkey Creek Jack returned to Tombstone with a warrant out for them for Stillwell's death. We are told that this was a murder warrant although the reality is that they were merely wanted for questioning as Stillwell was a murder suspect himself and Wyatt was a Federal Officer. The Sheriff in Tuscon, Ron Paul, had worked with Wyatt for Wells Fargo, they were old friends. Had Wyatt stayed in Tuscon he would surely have beat the rap. Instead they left on the train with Virgil, getting off up the line and riding a freight train back to Benson where their horses were.

Returning to Tombstone they met up with Sheriff Behan as they were leaving town. This is when that famous conversation took place with Behan saying "Wyatt, I need to see you."

Earp replied "if you aren't careful you will see me once too often." The Earp Posse rode out of town, Behan then put together a posse of his own, consisting of at least one of the Clanton bothers, Fin, Johnny Ringo and about twenty of the cow-boys.

Here is where the history gets confusing. Including Stillwell history puts the death toll on the vendetta ride as somewhere between four and fifteen. We know that Indian Charlie was the next to go, he was cutting wood on Pete Spence's place. Now the Earp Posse wanted Spence, too as they were pretty sure that he was involved in shooting Virgil. What they didn't know was that Spence had turned himself in and was safe in jail in Tombstone.

There was more riding around by both posses and then Wyatt's posse rode up to Iron Springs where they were supposed to meet up with a friend with supplies. Instead they found Curly Bill and some of his pals. Shooting from cover, the first thing the Earp Posse knew was when the bullets started flying. Turkey Creek Jack's horse was killed, Wyatt came down off his horse and let two blasts of buckshot into Curly Bill. This spoiled Curly Bill's plans for running Cochise County, another shot went into Johnny Barnes, another cow-boy. Johnny died some two weeks later.

With all this shooting one would think that Wyatt would have been blown to doll rags. He had a bullet througfh his boot heel, several through his coat tails and pant legs and one through his saddle horn. No bullet touched his skin. Doc picked up Turkey Creek Jack and the Earp posse went to Henry Hooker's ranch to rest up and refit.

Meanwhile the Behan Posse returned to Tombstone having done nothing but spend a lot of the county's money.

From there the Posse moved out of Arizona and the vendetta ride was over, or was it? Nor the next few months several of the cow-boys met mysterious ends, not least Johnny Ringo. On July 14, 18982 Ringo's body was found by a teamster, John Yoast. Ringo was leaned against a tree with his gun in his hand and a bullet through his brain.

Now it is normal to think that he shot himself, there are a couple of details wrong, with that. Suicides are almost never found with the gun in their hand after shooting themselves through the head. The gun is still recoiling when the bullet takes out the brain, the hand muscles relax and the gun goes flying. Plus part of Ringo's hair and scalp had been cut off his head with a knife.

His boots were gone and his feet were wrapped in an undershirt. And one of his cartridge belts was buckled on upside down.

The one person we know for sure that had nothing to do with Ringo's death was Doc Holliday, he was in court on a larceny charge in Colorado during this. Buckskin Frank Leslie confessed to a guard in Yuma Territorial Prison that he did it, many claim that Wyatt Earp did it. I think Ringo killed himself but I wouldn't bet the rent on it.

A few years later the silver mines of Tombstone flooded and Tombstone went from growing city to a small town. Now it exist only to remove money from tourists, but once...

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